Geryon looked away from her. "I know I'm ugly. I know the thought of being with me in such a manner is abhorrent, but I - "

"You aren't ugly," Kadence interjected, "and I do not like that you think so. I do not like when you demean yourself like that."

He blinked over at her, astonishment shining in his expression.

She continued, "The thought of being with you is welcome. I promise you."

Now his mouth opened and closed. "Welcome?"

"Yes. But I don't want you to bond with me simply to save me." She had once been too afraid to admit she craved his body, had pretended merely to be grateful to get a kiss. There would be no more pretending. "I want you to want to do this. Because I...I want you inside of me, becoming part of me, more than I want another tomorrow. I want to be your woman, now and always."

Before he could respond, another pain slicked through her, raining like poisoned hail and curling her into a ball. Another crack had just slithered through the wall; she saw it in her mind.

"Geryon?" she panted.

His gaze bore into her. "I once swore that were I ever lucky enough to regain my soul, I would never, for any reason, trade it again. I have just realized that I would willingly trade it for you, Kadence. So yes, I want to do this."

Geryon slowly divested Kadence of her robe, careful not to hurt her with his razor-sharp nails. She was already in pain and he doubted she could bear much more. Beautiful, precious woman. She deserved only pleasure.

For whatever reason, she desired him. Desired forever. Together. She had given him the thing he'd thought he valued most - his soul - but he had not known until he'd watched her curl into a ball that he valued her more. He'd longed to take her pain into himself. For her, anything. She cared not that he was a beast. She saw to the heart of him, and liked it.

When she was naked, he drank her in. Alabaster skin dusted with the sweetest hint of rose. Lush breasts, a curved waist, a navel his mouth watered to sample. Legs that stretched for miles. He bent and licked one of her nipples, laving his tongue around the delectable tip, his hands traveling all over her body.

The closer his fingers came to her core, the more she purred a deep sigh of satisfaction, her pain seeming to melt away. "The pleasure, it's replacing the pain," she said, confirming his thoughts.

Thank the gods. He moved his attention to her other nipple, sucking, allowing the tip of a fang to graze it ever so gently. "Still helping?" All the while his fingers teased just above her clitoris, not touching, only teasing.

"Still helping. But I want to see you," she said, giving his armor a pointed stare.

He lifted his head and peered into her eyes. "Are you sure? I could take you without removing a single piece of armor."

"I want all of you, Geryon." Her features were luminescent. "All."

"Whatever you desire, you shall have." He only hoped she did not change her mind when she saw him.

"Do not fear my reaction. You are beautiful to me."

Such sweet words. But...he'd lived with his insecurities so long, they were a part of him. "How can I be? Look at me. I am a beast. A monster. Something to be feared and reviled."

"I am looking at you and you are something to be praised. You may not bear the appearance of other men, but you have strength and courage. Besides," she added, licking her lips, "animal magnetism is a very good thing."

Slowly he grinned. "All right. I will show you the rest of me."